Posts Tagged ‘colon cancer awareness’

Get the Facts About Colonoscopies

ColonoscopyColorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for roughly 50,000 deaths each year. In 2018 alone more than 140,000 individuals were diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

Fortunately, there’s a safe and effective way to identify precancerous cells and prevent colorectal cancer: the colonoscopy. Research continues to show the clear impact this screening has on saving lives. One recent study found that, among men and women with an average risk of colorectal cancer, colonoscopies reduced the risk of death from colon or rectal cancer by 67 percent.

Still, despite this evidence, many of us are hesitant to schedule our regular screening. Some of us think of the procedure as uncomfortable or embarrassing, or we may want to avoid the seemingly unpleasant prep to clear our intestines. But the more we know the more we’ll understand the push towards these important screenings. Discover the truth about colonoscopies, and why you should schedule a screening today.

Who Needs a Colonoscopy?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults begin colorectal screenings at age 50 and continue with screenings through age 75. Based on the findings of your results, you may not need to return for another colonoscopy for 5-10 years.

Colonoscopies are not the only screening option to detect colorectal cancer, but it is the most effective. Your primary care provider will discuss screening options, including which is the best for you.

What Should I Expect During a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy allows your doctor to see the entire length of your rectum and colon to look for and remove abnormal growths or polyps. You’ll be asked to prepare for the procedure before it’s scheduled. This preparation includes:

  • Emptying the bowels by drinking a prescribed laxative and using enemas
  • Following a liquid-only diet for 24 hours before the procedure

Right before the procedure, you’ll receive sedation to help you relax and go to sleep. Then, your doctor will insert a colonoscope (a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end) slowly into your rectum and colon. If any polyps or growths are found, your doctor can remove them immediately.

What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

A colonoscopy can identify colorectal cancer before symptoms appear, which improves treatment and outcomes. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Bloating or feeling full
  • Change in bowel habits, including
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Feeling as though bowel does not empty completely
    • Blood in stool
    • Stool that is narrower than usual
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss

It’s important to note that these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of colorectal cancer. Other health problems can produce similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to contact your physician if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.

What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?

The main risk factors for colorectal cancer are uncontrollable. They include heredity, family history and personal medical history. Other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Other controllable factors
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Obesity
    • Processed meat consumption
    • Red meat consumption
    • Smoking
  • Presence of an inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)

Remember, early detection is your best chance for a cure. You should contact your physician if you’re experiencing symptoms or are at risk for colorectal cancer. If your physician feels it’s appropriate, a screening test such as a colonoscopy may be recommended to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Learn More

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk of colorectal cancer and to determine if you should schedule a colonoscopy. At Winship Cancer Institute, we’re committed to advancing the standard of care for all our patients, including those diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment program or schedule an appointment with our gastrointestinal specialists by calling (404) 778-1900.

Talk to Our Nurses

Emory HealthConnection is where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.


About Dr. McKenna

Matthew McKenna, MDMatthew T. McKenna, MD, is the director of Emory University’s Division of Preventive Medicine, and also serves as professor of Medicine in Emory’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. He has extensive experience in public health and preventive medicine. From 1989 – 2010, he worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and before joining the Emory faculty he was the medical director for the Fulton County (the county where the city of Atlanta is located) Department of Health and Wellness from 2010 to 2015.Dr. McKenna is a graduate of the Emory University School of Medicine and he completed his residency in Family Medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. McKenna joined CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Program in 1989 and completed the CDC residency in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health in 1992. He subsequently assumed positions of increasing responsibility throughout his career working in a wide range of areas, such as cancer control, tuberculosis, HIV and his last position at CDC was as the director of the Office on Smoking and Health. He is board certified in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. Dr. McKenna serves as a volunteer, expert consultant to the Guideline Development Group of the American Cancer Society. That group provided input to the creation of the Colorectal Cancer Screening guidelines that were issued by the Society in May of 2018.

With a Little Help from Friends

lex gilbert cancer survivorI always assumed that cancer would catch up with me one day. After all, my mother and two of my aunts had breast cancer so I figured I must be next in line. Yet it never occurred to me that the rectal bleeding I’d been experiencing could be colon cancer. Surely the sigmoidoscopy ordered by my doctor would lead me to a quick fix and that would be that. Surprise! When I woke up after the procedure, she came to my bedside and told me I had colon cancer.

When I heard those words I went numb. The world looked as it might if viewed through a funhouse mirror. I remember someone standing nearby handing me a box of Kleenex. I didn’t need the Kleenex. I didn’t cry until many weeks later and boy did I need Kleenex then. I think my soul just closed up shop so it could absorb the gravity of my situation at its own pace, and when it was ready to let go of the emotions, it let go.

Believe me, I am not one of those survivors who talk about what a gift it was to have cancer! I certainly would have preferred to learn the lessons taught by cancer in a less painful way, but all things being equal, there were important lessons learned and I think they are clearly worth passing along. Here’s one.

I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. One of the most difficult aspects of being a patient was accepting help from friends. When they offered, I’d say that we didn’t need anything even though that was utterly and completely false. Husbands come in handy sometimes and mine immediately jumped on my reluctance to let folks “in.” At the same time, a dear friend and colleague set up an on-line calendar where I could post what I needed and friends could sign up to help. I could ask for someone to buy me groceries on Wednesday, or help me get the house in order on Saturday, or mow the lawn, drive me to an appointment, or just plain keep me company.

The overwhelming response to the calendar and the ensuing discussions made me realize that when people offer help, they want to help! What a revelation! Too many of us deny our friends the satisfaction and fulfillment that helping someone in need gives them. Allowing folks to help also brings them into our lives in a deeper way, resulting in even more satisfying friendships. The Jedi mind-trick is that letting people help is a gift to them, as well as a gift to you.

About Lex Gilbert

Lex Gilbert is a cancer survivor and very active volunteer with Winship Cancer Institute. She originally comes from southern California, where she ran her own marketing and promotions company serving major corporate clients from throughout the U.S. She has been a life-long volunteer and was awarded “top volunteer” by the County of San Diego for her work mentoring a child in foster care. She moved to Atlanta in 2007 and now works in the Office of Health Promotion at Emory. She was awarded the CLASS Distinguished Service Honor in the Division of Campus Life. Bruce Gilbert, her husband of 32 years, is a musician fighting Parkinson’s disease and also volunteers at Winship as a pianist.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

“Top Secret” Cancer Facts Worth Sharing

cancer secretsIt’s time to stop being embarrassed about the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and nearly 50,000 will lose their battle to the disease according to The American Cancer Society.

It’s colon cancer awareness month – share the facts about how a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

A study, published in JAMA Surgery and recently reported in the NYT, showed that incidences of colorectal cancer have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the mid 1980s. Simply said, more people under the recommended screening age of 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is not embarrassing. There’s simply no sense in keeping secrets from your physician. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family or have particular symptoms that you’re unsure about then it’s time to get the facts from your doctor. Speak openly about your risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer are possible by appropriately scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. A conversation with your doctor is always confidential; make it honest and candid.

As a Nurse Practitioner in gastrointestinal cancers, I have had many patients who have stated that they wish they had gotten a colonoscopy as recommended for colorectal cancer screening. They also say they now preach to everyone they know to get their colonoscopies.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. No topic is top secret or off limits.

About Ms. Brutcher
Edith Brutcher

A chemotherapy infusion specialist and adult nurse practitioner, Ms. Brutcher’s clinical specialties include gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers. She has 27 years experience as a Registered Nurse, and 8 years as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with Medical Oncology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing Adult Practitioner, specializing in oncology and immunology, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources